Sunday, 13 January 2013

Carcassonne, starting with one of the best!

Review 1: Carcassonne

I have to start my reviews with my favourite game, Carcassonne is an award winning  euro game published by Rio Grande Games, which features a tile and worker placement theme and was one of my first forays into the euro game style, which has become my favourite of late. Euro games place less, or even no, emphasis on player conflict and focus on financial/economic conquest as opposed to combat. As such it isn’t really geared toward power gamers but will suit almost every other player down to the casual visitor to the table.
Box art.

Starting with the box, as I usually do, the quality is fantastic as with most Rio Grande games. The design is very good and suits the game by not being too overstated and very thematic. The four follower types, Knight, Monk, Thief and Farmer are represented on the cover art & the information & images on the back keep with this theme also with a simple piece of text explaining the origin of the French town of Carcassonne which serves as the inspiration and setting for this game, a short description of the gameplay which doesn’t give too much away and a list of the contents along with an image of some of the contents.
A small three player game in progress.

The score tracker.

Inside the box is just as pleasing to the eye as the outside. The rules are presented on a six sided A4 sized pamphlet but are not too complex, at least half of the space is taken up by examples of tile placement and follower placement and the rules take around ten minutes to read through and grasp the basics. The score tracker is nice and made of the same high quality card stock as the rest of the playing pieces which themselves are very good indeed. The tiles have some really nice images on them and the card quality is among the best I have, popping them out of the templates (which is a sad pleasure of mine!) is seamless and they came out clean and with the merest application of pressure which is, for me, a sign of a quality production. Finally we have the followers, or for almost the entire gaming community the “Meeples”, these little wooden fellows are one of my favourite playing pieces in my entire collection! Presented in five flavours, red, yellow, green, blue and black, they are made equally as well as the rest of the components in the box and round off the contents well.

The game is a simple one to play, the mechanic of take a tile, place a tile adjacent to any other placed tiles and place a follower if you want is a painfully easy one to follow!, you get a follower back when you score with it by completing the construction they are placed on so managing your placement is key. But the devil, they say, is in the details! The aspect of strategy rapidly shows its head in any game, be it with seasoned Carcassonne players or noobs. Trying to build a large city is usually an early tactic as you score two points for each tile that makes up the city or town you have a follower on, until some ruthless rival caps it off for you and puts the skids on to your campaign of expansion. Placing a follower on a field (the grass areas surrounding the towns and roads) is good for playing the long game as they are only scored at the end of the game and they score three points for each completed city/town they are connected to & this can be a game breaker, unless someone manages to connect their field to yours at which time they will share the points unless you can do the same and outnumber them. Roads are good for quick scores as getting a follower onto a road and extending the heck out of it is rather easy and you get a point for each tile the road is on.Finally we have the cloisters/chapels, these need to be surrounded by other tiles to score and they score nine points when complete. When the final tile has been placed all of the scores are tallied and the remaining, incomplete roads and buildings are counted, incomplete towns scoring half points.

The balance of tile pieces is perfect, the game flows fantastically and never gets bogged down by repetition of pieces & even if it did the sheer amount of options for placement makes each and every game unique and unpredictable.

The scoring tracker is the only thing that I would have any less than a positive word for, as it sometimes gets in the way and can easily be knocked, scattering the meeple score pieces and naffing up the score for the players, a simple tally is an equally effective way of scoring this game as well as various digital score trackers available for tablets and smart phones.

In summation Carcassonne is one of the best euro style games available, simple to learn and teach, very addictive and for the money one of the best value games at the time and that’s before you even consider the sheer volume of expansions available for it!

9/10 and worth it all!! Would be a straight 10 if not for the score tracker.

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